John McCain is back to his old mavericky ways, throwing the RNC under the bus for playing up Obama's Blagojevich ties.
Without agreeing too much with Senator McCain, it's fair to say that any residual connections Obama may have with Gov. Blagojevich as a result of being an Illinois Senator are not the strongest part of our argument. I can understand the desire to go at Obama. But with Obama at 76% approval for the transition, our hits against him have to be clean hits, or they will blow up in our face. I find myself agreeing with Phil Singer that any attacks have to conform to existing public narratives of Obama. I don't think that Obama the corruptocrat is a particularly promising meme, but I do think that Obama as lethargic and passive (which was Obama's whole strength during the economic crisis because of McCain's erratic-ness) could have potential if, say, it was found that Obama's staff knew something shady was going on, and did not immediately report it to Patrick Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile, the GOP should be focused on the following:
- Play the Special Election to the Hilt. Dick Durbin opened a door that Mark Kirk or Peter Roskam may well walk through. At a minimum, the DNC will be forced to spend millions of dollars defending a hugely symbolic Senate seat in the middle of Obama's first 100 days. The desire for a clean break from the political establishment, which is probably even more noxious than it was in the Jindal/Cao victories in Louisiana, is a huge wildcard that leaves the door open for a clean Republican. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is probably toast at this point; Jan Schakowsky is a shrill liberal and not a good fit statewide; I don't have a read on how Lisa Madigan's antics are playing in-state but have a feeling that the Madigan family's good cop-bad cop routine on the special could hurt.
- Tell a Story About Democratic Corruption. Let's use this opportunity to lay the groundwork for a narrative about the Democrats as a party. And let's not hesitate to separate Obama from Congressional Democrats, as this commenter suggested. This has long-term utility to the extent we can infuse the Obama-Congressional relationship with distrust and jealousy so they're at war with each other. Blagojevich, Jefferson, Rangel, and Dodd should be painted as part of a pattern. It took years of Republicans being in power for the Abramoff stuff to happen. These guys aren't even in yet, and just look.
- Keep Up Calls for Transparency and Openness from the Obama Team. Adopt Soren's transparency agenda and hold Obama's feet to the fire on disclosing everything -- in a "trust but verify" kind of way. We need to find ways to turn Democratic screw ups into positive Republican alternatives that rebuild our trust with voters. While I think there has to be a nod to the reality that Obama was not directly involved in any of Blago's dealings, we need to be ready to call out any slippage or dissembling in the disclosure timeline. The transition has laudably posted documents from its meetings with outside interest groups. Will it do the same for its internal deliberations and its contacts with Blago and other prospective supplicants?